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It’s an odd old life at the moment that doesn’t lend itself to blogging, or much else outside of work or travel for that matter. My summer has consisted of long days and nights in the edits intercut with sharp sojourns to Alaska. Crazy commutes to location are part of the job but this one is a classic. It’s three flights and two days to get where I’m going in SE Alaska.
Also known as the Pan Handle of SE Alaska, is actually on the west coast of continental North America, (confused?) check it out here. Being on the west coast, the weather is unpredictable. After a flight north from cool Seattle, the final leg is up the coastal canal from Juneau to Haines, skirting glaciers and overflying whales.
The journey should be on a small single prop plane on ‘Wings of Alaska’. But often the weather is so changeable that I end up taking alternative methods of transport. I’ve taken a fast cat, cessna, chopper and slow boat so far. I head back to Alaska soon. Who knows, I may get to kayak home yet.
One recent diversion took me back through LA for the premiere of a show that’s part of ‘Locked Up Abroad‘ , a long running TV series that I look after at Raw TV. In this episdoe called ’The Real Midnight Express‘, Billy Hayes re-lives being incarcerated in a Turkish prison in the 1970s. His story inspired Alan Parker and Oliver Stone to make the film ‘Midnight Express’.
It took Billy an enormous amount of courage to take part in this film. He had to stand by his life-changing and costly mistakes in front of a theatre of TV critics, friends and subsequently a national TV audience. When it aired, it rated off the scale. I was delighted for Billy and the teams at Raw and National Geographic.
Wrapping the edit up at the wonderful Envy after nine months and leaving everything shipshape was harder than I imagined. But in the end I was really pleased with the series. It’s been doing well in the US and is going to go out soon in the UK on five. The upshot of this final push was that I left the show more than a tad tired after some very late nights.
And then there was the actual last night itself when I should have done what any mature and sensible man would do and that is go home and fall into the arms of his neglected wife. But not Sammy, no, instead after a couple of pints at the Toucan we headed to Zoe Brewer’s 40th party.
Now anyone who knows the Brewers knows that a night there, never mind a night as big as a fortieth, is going to be (how should I put it?) an occasion for celebration. Consequently we lived up to our joint expectations, did our very merry duty by Colin and Zoe and returned home a little after 6am. Again, most sensible people would have spent the day in bed but I had to clean the flat before my grandaughter and her mum arrived off the train from Scotland for a week’s entertainment in London.
We had a brilliant time but the days were busy and the nights were late as we saw the sights and talked the talk into the wee sma hours. When Jen and I finally boarded the Eurostar for two weeks in the South of France the omens weren’t good either. The carriage suddenly filled with many uniformed red Americans ‘doing Europe’. They were all very excited about going under the English Channel and getting a good seat, (to view the darkness I presume).
However my fear of uniformity proved unfounded (I had a tough time in the Scouts); our American cousins were models of decorum. After arriving in Paris, yoga in the Jardin du Luxembourg, a pit-stop in our favourite Cafe Tournon (expensive, non? Charcuterie, fromage, pain and cafe creme – 50 euro/nearly quid – but well worth the experience), a mad dash across the city to Gare de Lyon, a whisk on the TGV and a thirty minute drive we found ourselves at the amazing Mas Dagan. It’s been a complete delight since then and exactly what a holiday should be, nothing and everything.
I’m cleaning up my old laptop to move everything to the shiny new Mac that should be arriving any day now (yes I’m becoming one of those people).
In an effort to quell my excitement about the imminent defection, I thought I’d post this very cool video that I found on my old PC desktop. It’s an advert that National Geographic Channel made for the new series of ‘Locked Up Abroad’ that I’m producing for Raw Television.
The ad was shown on a huge video billboard in Times Square, New York, which is definitely a first for any series I’ve made. The UK version is called ‘Banged Up Abroad’ and can be seen on National Geographic Channel in the UK on Sky, Virgin and Tiscali. Find out when on the Nat Geo website.
It seems strange that I haven’t mentioned what has been pre-occupying a huge amount of my time for the last year and a half. I’m right in the middle of producing another series of ‘Locked Up Abroad’ for the National Geographic Channel, (it’s called ‘Banged Up Abroad’ in the UK). You can watch the trailer here.
Last season I produced thirteen shows from around the world and this year I’m doing the same. They are action-packed drama/documentaries that recreate the true life testimonies of people who have found themselves imprisoned in far-off places. In some cases the contributor has made a stupid attempt to get rich quick, while in others they’ve have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But either way, most of the films attest to people’s inner strength and resilience in extreme situations. The shows are a bit like ‘Midnight Express‘ on speed except as a rule we make more of the dilemmas and decisions that lead to the subject’s capture and less of their incarceration.
The series gets great reviews and a really good audience (“One of the most compelling and riveting series TV has ever provided” – New York Post). This season we’ve found a new range of incredible stories in Iraq, Cuba, Sierra Leone and as many other far flung locations we dig up to test our tight schedules and preposterous ambitions.
Producing this series with all the possible permutations for problems is a rock n roll journey but it’s one I make behind a desk in the East End of London. My home is a five minute cycle ride from Raw Television who makes the series, and the edit suites at Envy (where they are being cut) are a fifteen minute cycle ride from Raw. I love my job and living in London, but having been the director sent off to the far-flung place many times before, I do get a touch of adventure-envy when I hear the experiences of my teams when they return from filming.
The new series is broadacsting just now in the US on Wednesday evenings at 10pm EST, but its also available on Video on demand from NGC’s site (and the last series is on Hulu – watchable only in the US).